BP probe ignored pre-spill call about critical test -lawyer

By Stephanie Grace

NEW ORLEANS, March 4 (Reuters) - BP's internal investigation of the company's Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 ignored a telephone call between BP supervisors about a critical pressure test that was misinterpreted with deadly consequences, a lawyer contended in aggressive questioning on Monday.

Transocean Ltd lawyer Brad Brian pushed BP's global head of safety and operational risk on why the report did not mention that call even though investigators mentioned it in their notes.

BP's report placed most of the blame for the explosion and spill on Transocean, whose Deepwater Horizon rig, under contract with BP, had been drilling a mile-deep well when a surge of gas caused a blowout that killed 11 workers.

"I think my team's thinking was ... it was mentioned, it wasn't in the form of consulting about it," replied Mark Bly, BP's global head of safety and operational risk who headed the company's investigation.

The U.S. Justice Department, U.S. Gulf Coast states affected by the spill and plaintiffs - all of whom are suing BP, Transocean and other companies - contend that BP put profits over safety in the drilling job that was over budget and overdue.

The collective plaintiffs contend that had well site leader Don Vidrine heeded concerns of onshore senior drilling engineer Mark Hafle about that pressure test and stopped the operation, the disaster could have been averted.

BP has acknowledged that engineers misinterpreted the results of the test, but holds both London-based BP and Transocean responsible for that.

Brian also questioned whether Bly and his investigative team looked into whether BP's decisions were driven by saving time and money.

"We didn't look at that specific question," Bly said.

The trial entered its second week on Monday before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in the first of three phases. The first phase focuses on allocation of blame among the companies involved and the severity to negligence on their part.